I know I've told you guys about the cat before, and I don't want to bore you with it again, but I've been thinking about it lately. The cat we owned back in North Carolina, who was a wonderful animal despite the fact that cats aren't my favorite, and died of cancer after we'd had him for a few years, a really sad day for me.
That's not the story I'm referring to, though.
What I'm talking about is the period when J and I were renting this lovely, spacious home in Carrboro, NC from the owner, who very kindly gave us a low monthly price, with the understanding that we'd take good care of it while we lived there. This was incredibly generous of her seeing that we were in our mid-twenties, and we did honor the deal, except for a couple of incredibly awesome parties. Just a couple.
Oh, and then, you know, the cat. Which we didn't mention to our landlord (whose name was Debbie Gibson, by the way, DEBBIE GIBSON), because we really wanted to live there and she'd already agreed to rent to us with two dogs. Our reasoning was, "Ok. She's accepted the two dogs. We CANNOT add a cat to the deal."
So, a year or two later, when she decided to sell the house and would bring potential buyers over to see the place, what we would do is put our cat, Teddy, in his carrier, and drive around the neighborhood with him for awhile until we were certain they'd left.
If you're getting what I'm saying here, what we'd do is, we'd rush home, put our elderly cat in a carrier, and then drive around the neighborhood with him while our landlord, Debbie Gibson, showed her home to a potential buyer. This is what we did instead of tell her we had a cat.
Like I said, I know I've probably mentioned this situation before, but I've been thinking about it again, because I think it says a lot about J and I. We sometimes make life a little difficult for ourselves, but it usually yields a good story.
As many of you know, we're expecting baby number three, a statement that I feel needs a series of exclamation points (!!!) and the added explanation: "Yes, I know we're crazy." The truth is, though, I think we were always going to have three kids and I feel very serene about the whole thing, like we're fulfilling a very exciting, and fated, life plan.
It's true that there's a lot up in the air. We don't know where J's job prospects are going to take us next, or when, although I've decided that the days immediately surrounding my due date in August are probably off limits. We've been thinking about the steps we need to take in advance of putting our house on the market while simultaneously trying to make plans for this summer. It's a transitory, strange time, and that was all I thought about for awhile. It stressed me out, this temporary existence; the thought that our life in New Haven could, on one hand, span another year or two. Or, on the other, a couple of months.
Then the stress broke. I think it has to when you're in limbo. J finally heard about a couple of jobs, allowing us to let go of several possibilities and open the door to a few others, I started making plans for the next school year and decided we had to simply move on. Including having another baby if we wanted! And then, before we'd had time to really digest that very important thought, oh my god, we were having another baby.
We aren't finding out the sex this time, but I DO know that this baby needs me to eat a lot of baked goods.
Getting pregnant helped divert attention away from the stress of figuring out what we'd do once J is done with his post-doc. It put things in perspective in a really good way.
Recent months have been distracting in other, more annoying ways, as well. Nonetheless, I've had a very good time getting worked up about these problems. There was the fact that Gabriel didn't get into the Pre-K class at Nora's public magnet school next year, even though he should have had an extremely good chance, given that his application included a "sibling preference."
Getting the news, investigating various discrepancies in my application, and hearing from other parents who didn't get in - but probably should have - has ignited in me a rather intense attitude towards the New Haven Public School system. Every day, for about 20 minutes, I am full prepared to go down the Superintendent's Office and sit in protest until someone will see me and address these injustices.
In reality, I've written a number of emails and cursed a lot and am thinking about next steps.
Then, there is the fact that Nora has cavities. This is a smaller, yet still worrisome issue, that has taken up more of my mental capacity than I ever dreamed something like this would when I was young and childless woman who thought I'd be using my education and energy to "do important world-changing work" or "follow my dreams" when I was older.
It turns out that actually, when you become a parent, you have to think about things like cavities. And how you're going to convince your son it's not a great idea to take his diapers off by himself particularly when there's, you know, poop.
Nora's dentist told us that she has one big cavity, and several smaller ones, and very strongly recommended she get the dental work done under general anesthesia at the hospital, which is apparently a thing they do now, and prompted many questions from me, such as: How did this happen? and, What?! and, Does that seems kind of crazy, guys? and, Won't these baby teeth just fall out anyway?
I learned, making me feel a teensy bit better, that, yes, this does happen to children, even under dental care, and when you've been taking good care of their teeth, including secretly eating a lot of their Halloween and Easter candy so they don't have to eat it all.
And that even though Nora's behavior at the dentist has been very good so far, it's not uncommon for dentists to recommend this route when there is a decent amount of work to be done, even though it seems, to me, a pretty aggressive sedation plan for cavities.
The argument is that it helps the child maintain a positive relationship with the dentist. That's not a good enough reason for me, so I'm sticking with my gut feeling, and am going to ask that they attempt this work in the office first, even if they don't like me for making this decision.
Now, I wouldn't say that Nora is the most stoic child in the face of pain or other distress; last night I was taking out her ponytail holders and she started lashing and moaning because I was, apparently, ruining her entire life. And the other morning, when she was supposed to be getting dressed for the day, I found her weeping silently in bed. When I asked her what the matter was, she said there were no undies in the drawer.
One thing she is, however, is obedient. She spent the first few weeks of school in what I imagine was a decent amount of discomfort because she thought she might have heard the teacher say that you were only allowed to go to the bathroom once a day during a very specifically designated time, which is of course not the case, but Nora wouldn't dare break the rules. We might have to talk her out this unquestioned respect for authority someday, but for now, it's helpful, and I think will serve her well with the dentist. She's not going to question him or his actions.
Also, we will bribe her.
Then, finally, there is the distraction that's been most responsible for redirecting my focus from the crucial to the mundane over the past few months, and that's J's car, our beloved Prius, which was totaled when someone hit it while it was parked outside his lab one day. She hit it, um, pretty hard, but at least had the decency to stay put and try and explain herself.
Sadly, the car was unfixable, and we collected a respectable check from our insurance agency. Not, of course, enough to buy a new car - if only the world worked that way - but enough to put a good amount down on one.
We didn't immediately go out and get another car, though. We didn't do that, because I am talking about the couple that, instead of tell their landlord they had a cat, drove the cat around the neighborhood every time the landlord came over.
I've always wished we could exist with just one car between us. We did for a long time in Chapel Hill. But where we live now it's really not feasible. J needs to drive to work, the kids each need to be driven to different schools and when I have freelance work, it generally requires a lot of driving around to interview subjects or cover a story. The New Haven bus is alright, but often not on time, so J would find himself heading out to catch it, and getting into work - a couple miles drive away - about 40 minutes later.
The other minor detail is that, despite the fact that he can do it, J generally refuses to drive my car because it's stick shift. He proudly admits this, and rejoices in explaining to me why manual cars can and should be obsolete.
So, for a good month, we were sharing my car, and by "sharing" I mean that I was driving everyone around everywhere all the time. There were, if you can believe it, parts of this I really liked, including us all getting in the car to go to work and school in the morning. J and I would talk schedules and other boring domestic details that always seem too mind-numbing for a lazy Saturday morning and too tiring for weekday evenings after the children are in bed, but are a perfect conversation topic for the 8 o'clock commute.
And the kids, especially Nora, seemed to love the togetherness of it all. "We're all going in the same car?!" she'd ask.
But there were parts of the one-car thing that I didn't like, too, like, well, pretty much everything besides driving in together in the morning.
So after a few weeks of trying it out, we'd declared our one-car experiment over and J made an appointment to go look at a Prius at a Toyota dealership willing to give him a good deal.
Our new car is dark blue and shiny and I think life is getting back to normal. For now.
While we were at the dealership, the kids, who thought the place was the most magical playscape they'd ever encountered, caught me peeking inside the showroom Toyota Highlander, and asked if they could get in. I let them because by that point we'd been there a long time and they were beginning to lose it. An enclosed space? With doors? Yes, kids, get in.
They were obsessed. The beautiful cream-colored seats. The third row seating, perfect for a family with three children. The DVD player. The myriad cupholders! Nora pointed them out to me multiple times.
A car like that would be so fun, I told them. And they wholeheartedly agreed. But, I thought to myself, we're not ready. Not yet. First we'll squeeze you all into the back of my Outback, close as can be, with two dogs in the back on road trips, one with a penchant for sneaking up on unassuming kids and stealing snacks right out their hands.
We'll go that route for as long as possible, is my guess, until one day, when I can't take it anymore. Maybe I'll pinch my finger rearranging a carseat or one kid will maim another to a degree that can't be ignored, and it will be the last straw.
Then, perhaps, we'll get a new car.
I'll think, as I so often do, that we probably could have avoided this insanity. But the good stories, they're always worth the trade off.